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Sermon February 10, 2019

Princeton Presbyterian Church (EPC) Sermon # 1384

February 10, 2019 Hebrews 2.1-18

Rev. Dr. Ed Pettus

(This is an extended outline, not a verbatim transcript.)

 

Jesus Died That We Might Live”

 

 

 

  • Therefore...Pay Close Attention -Heb 2.1

 

As I spoke last Sunday we are not sure who wrote the Book of Hebrews. Many have attributed it to Paul and today I want to show you at least one reason why that is reasonable and it is wrapped up in the word “therefore”. I have outlined this chapter around that word. “Therefore” is one of Paul’s favorite words in his letters to the churches. (Just so you know there are also many reasons to doubt Paul wrote Hebrews). In this first use in chapter two, the author ties together chapters one and two with “therefore”. Chapter one dealt primarily with the superiority of Jesus over the angels, the messengers of God. Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. Therefore, pay close attention. To what? To what we have heard. What have we heard? In chapter one we heard that Jesus is the message. No angel is the message, they are only the messengers. Second, pay close attention to what we have heard lest we drift. I think the author is warning the reader to continue to immerse ourselves in the gospel message. Pay attention to what we already know. Stay focused on the simple message that Jesus died and rose again.

It is likely that those addressed in this letter were drifting from the truth they had received. There have always been and still are many forces at work seeking to cause us to drift away from the main message. We get tied up in politics or work or leisure or earthly concerns, not that those things are not important, but they cannot dominate our lives. We get sidetracked by the minor things of faith at the expense of the major things of faith. It was the problem of many religious leaders in the time of Jesus and continues to plague the church today.

 

 

  • Message of Angels, Jesus, Apostles, God -Heb 2.2-4

 

One of the fascinating elements of Hebrews 2.2-4 are the witnesses who have given us the message of the gospel. Chapter one and then again here in chapter two we have the angels. Angels are reliable messengers. They have been reliable to bring God’s message to the world. But now we have a message of great salvation in Jesus Christ that was declared by Jesus Himself. He is both the messenger and the message! The third witnesses are the apostles. They attested the message to this author of Hebrews (it was attested to us by those who heard). The fourth witness is God Himself by giving signs and wonders and miracles and I think we could add yet another witness in the Holy Spirit and gifts that come with Him.

Witnesses are crucial in biblical authority and reliability. False witnesses are considered one of the lowest jerks on the earth and will one day pay for their deceit...Proverbs 19.5, A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who breathes out lies will not escape. It is one of the commandments Moses received, You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor (Exo 20.16). We see lots of possibilities for false witnesses to try and destroy people these days especially in politics, but think about how our witness to things hurts or helps. We see many restaurants come and go around here, and certainly it is because they are good or bad at service or quality, but the word of mouth can sink a restaurant in no time. Witnesses matter. In the Old Testament God tells His people that they will be His witnesses. In the New Testament he tells the disciples and us, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1.8). There is power in witnessing for good and for bad. We have at our fingertips and on our lips the most powerful testimony ever given in the witness of the gospel.

 

 

  • The Gospel Message -Heb 2.5-13

 

The gospel message is given in Hebrews 5.5-13. I just want to outline the main elements in this section.

Jesus came to the earth and for a short time was made a little lower than the angels, that is, He came as a human being. The classic text and witness for us in this is Philippians 2.5-8,

 

5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

 

As a human being He Jesus tasted death for us. He took upon Himself the penalty that we deserved. He suffered and died that we might live.

 

Romans 5.19 For as by the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man's obedience the many will be made righteous.

 

This was all done through the grace of God. ...namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone (Heb 2.9).

 

This was the only way it could be done, that the One by whom all things exist would be the One to bring many to glory to salvation. Only God could do this. We could not. We cannot. Only God.

God has given salvation through His only Son. This is the gospel message, our testimony as witnesses, the testimony of angels and Jesus and the apostles and God and the Holy Spirit and us! That is a lot of witnesses. That is a true testimony. Jesus came, He died, He rose, and all by God’s grace – for us, for all who believe.

 

 

  • Therefore...A Shared Humanity -Heb 2.14-16

 

The next “therefore” shows us how Jesus becoming human helps us in our times of need. Jesus went through the same kinds of things we all do, pain, suffering, temptation, everything except that He did so without sin. In so doing, Jesus saves us and utterly destroys the power of death, destroys the devil. Death has no power over us, no threat, no influence. The devil has no weapon that can stand against us because Jesus has destroyed him. Now, we still know that the devil is like a roaring lion loose on the earth, but the end is known. The story is complete even if not yet finalized. Back in Heb 2.8 we see how this works...Now in putting everything in subjection to him, he left nothing outside his control. At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him. We do not yet see the final chapter of this work of Christ. It is something referred to as the now and not yet. The devil is defeated, but the final battle is yet to be seen. The victory is won, but not yet fully realized. The kingdom is present right now, but there is even more to come. We live in the midst of the book where the final page is already known.

All of this is done for us. Jesus did not become like an angel to help them, He came as a man to help us.

 

 

  • Therefore...The Atoning One -Heb 2.17-18

 

Now Jesus, having come as a man, has become our high priest. He Himself is the mediator between us and God the Father. He is the mediator who has died for us, prays for us, intercedes on our behalf. He is the atoning sacrifice, forgiver of sins, and having done all of this and more, He knows what we go through, because He has been there too. He wants to help us through our tough times, through our temptations. He desires to help. This word “help” is also used to describe the Holy Spirit in John 14. Some versions use the word Helper when revealing that God would send the Holy Spirit. The ESV is one of those versions!

 

These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you” (John 14.25-26).

 

God has sent the Holy Spirit to help us. Remember those days when you were in the gym and the basketball rolled away and you yelled out across the gym, “Little help!” That’s what we pray today, “Holy Spirit, little help!” But the Spirit is a lotta help!

 

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words (Rom 8.26).

 

The message of Hebrews 2 is one of witness – Jesus died that we might live. It is the testimony that has many witnesses. It is the message to which we must pay very close attention. It is the message to keeps us on the right track. But when we are tempted, the Spirit is there to help us. This is good news. This is the Good News.